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Judge Finds The Term Instrumentality “Unclear” And Narrowly Construes “Foreign Official” Element Contrary To The DOJ’s Position

Judicial Decision

There is little substantive Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case law, even fewer judicial decisions of precedent. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of FCPA enforcement actions or merely FCPA scrutiny, plaintiffs counsel (no doubt representing shareholders on a contingent fee basis) frequently file securities fraud class actions hoping some get past the motion to dismiss stage.

In deciding motions to dismiss, federal trial court judges occasionally directly comment upon FCPA issues and this post highlights a recent example in a matter involving Rio Tinto. As discussed below, a federal court judge found the term “instrumentality” in the FCPA’s “foreign official” definition “unclear” and otherwise narrowly construed the term in a way contrary to the DOJ’s current position.

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U.S. v. Hoskins And The Big Picture

bigpicture

This prior post highlighted the Second Circuit’s recent decision in U.S. v. Hoskins in which the court rejected the DOJ’s expansive jurisdictional theory of prosecution against Lawrence Hoskins, a U.K. national.

This post continues the analysis by highlighting various “big picture” issues.

Legislative History Matters

In large part, the Second Circuit’s opinion was based on the FCPA’s legislative history demonstrating once again that legislative history matters.

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Second Circuit Rejects DOJ’s Expansive Jurisdictional Theory Of Prosecution In U.S. v. Hoskins

Judicial Decision

Appellate decisions construing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are extremely rare. Thus, many in the FCPA community have been awaiting the Second Circuit’s long-awaited (oral argument was held in March 2017 – see here) decision in U.S. v. Hoskins.

In this decision, the court rejected the DOJ’s expansive jurisdictional theory of prosecution against Lawrence Hoskins, a U.K. national. In many respects, the Second Circuit’s decision was based on the FCPA’s legislative history – demonstrating once again that the legislative history matters (see here for a prior post).

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Firtash Files Motion To Dismiss DOJ FCPA And Related Charges Brought In 2014

firtash

As highlighted in this prior post, in April 2014 the DOJ announced the unsealing of a criminal indictment charging six individuals “with participating in an alleged international racketeering conspiracy involving bribes of state and central government officials in India to allow the mining of titanium minerals.”

Among those charged was Dmitry Firtash, a high-profile Ukrainian businessman.

Prior to the April 2014 unsealed indictment, Firtash was arrested in Austria and thereafter paid $174 million to post bail. Responding to the U.S. criminal charges, as noted in this prior post, Firtash released a video which insisted he is an innocent party caught at the center of a “battlefield for the two biggest global players of Russia and the USA.”

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A Case Study In Risk Aversion Or What Happens When Defendants Fight Back

fightback

[This post is part of a periodic series regarding “old” FCPA enforcement actions]

Previous posts here and here highlighted the 2001 DOJ/SEC FCPA enforcement action against KPMG Siddharta Siddharta & Harsono (KPMG-SSH) and Sonny Harsono and Baker Hughes regarding alleged improper payments in connection with an Indonesia tax assessment. All of the defendants resolved the enforcement actions without putting the DOJ/SEC to its burden of proof (the risk aversion portion of this post).

However, also in 2001 the SEC charged Eric Mattson (the former CFO of Baker Hughes) and James Harris (the former Controller of Baker Hughes) with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act offenses based on the same substantive allegations. Unlike the other defendants, as highlighted in this post, Mattson and Harris fought back – a process that resulted in a federal court judge dismissing the FCPA charges against them.

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